Moments that Change My Life 4: Say Yes to Kindness

I am the first child of two. I have a sister who is 3 years younger than me. As other sibling relationship, we are not always in sync. When we were kids, we fought, we argued, etc. However, as we grow older, we’ve become closer. And, to be honest, I learned a lot from her.

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One of the things that I admire from her is her life moto. I found out about this a few years ago, I don’t know, probably through her social media or new year’s resolution. So she said that she will try to live her life with this principle: Say yes to kindness. When I heard that, I was like, WOW. It is such a simple principle, but it’s going to be difficult to be applied.

After that moment, I notice that my sister changes and she is being a kinder person. I think, as her principle, she always tries to help others in need. She is willing to sacrifice things for others’ sake. She does not count what she has done for others. I see her give and give and give. I see her change that I also want to adopt this value.

Say yes to kindness. It is such a simple, yet powerful phrase. If we all say yes to kindness, maybe the world can actually become a nicer, nicer place. Yes, instead of having such a long list of resolutions or targets that we want to achieve, why don’t we start with one? Let’s say yes to kindness.

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Moments that Change My Life 2: Getting Out of My Comfort Zone

I always believe that discomfort is the key of learning. I’ve started believing this since I was in college, studying cognitive psychology. In that class, I learned that when new information is absorbed by our brain, we try to match the information with the schema that we’ve had. The new information may fit well, or we need to adjust our schemas to receive the information, integrating it with the knowledge we’ve had. And this process causes change. This process causes discomfort. This is called cognitive dissonance.

I believe that this cognitive dissonance is actually good, which makes me think that the whole discomfort feeling may actually be the sign of change and improvements. Getting more and more aware of ourselves, sometimes it is inevitable to feel that change and learning is not fun because of this uncomfortable feeling, which makes people not willing to learn. Working in an education setting, I see a lot of students with great potential, but lack of the ability to feel uncomfortable, the humility, and the curiosity. The first one I’ve discussed in the previous paragraph. The second one, humility, is a very interesting topic.

The know-it-all person. With the height of technology use and wide access of information, our generation is very susceptible to be the know-it-all people. Without critical thinking ability and humility, I think everyone may eventually stop learning. Why? Because they think that they know everything. I truly believe that another aspect that can support one’s improvement and learning is humility; knowing that we don’t know everything. I’d discussed this too in one of my writing: https://theadventureofizzao.com/2016/10/21/ada-langit-di-atas-langit/. And arrogance is a very dangerous thing for students that hinders them from actually learning. I saw this a lot, especially with the more advanced and intelligent students. Being humble doesn’t only mean that we seek for further knowledge, but also that we are open to feedback and other people’s perspectives.

The second aspect leads to the third one, which is curiosity. I think curiosity is human nature. Everyone is born with curiosity and the ability to explore the world. One thing, back to square one again; is that one may diminish his curiosity because he is not willing to be uncomfortable. Trial and error requires someone to fail, which is not fun! Getting to know new people may exhaust us, which may also not fun! And all those “negative” consequences of trying new things sometimes prevent us from learning and from improving ourselves.

Getting out of my comfort zone is actually the key of my learning. I don’t know with other people, but I am always aware that learning and improving are not always fun. I try to think the challenges as something that can increase my capacity, and when I fail, better try next time. I am also very aware that getting out of the comfort zone is not easy. I need to push myself to do it, even if it is only online courses or trying new food recipe. However, the biggest opportunity to get out of my comfort zone was when I had to live far away from home, alone. “Merantau”, Indonesian people said. It has become a philosophy for some Indonesian people, which actually teaches a lot of life lessons.

How do I feel right now? Am I comfortable enough that I stop learning? Hmmm… maybe I am too used to this environment that I am living in? I don’t know. I still feel that I have a little bit room to explore, but maybe not for long. Maybe I need to find another area to pursue? Maybe I need to get out of my comfort zone, soon.

Mental Health and Stuff

Okay, I don’t have time to write and this is the last thing that I wrote. It is actually an assignment for my online course about Mental Health and Well-being that I join through FutureLearn. You can go to futurelearn.com to check other online courses that are free (if you don’t want certificate). The course has been very helpful!

Here it goes…

There are many things that can negatively influence mental health. This is based on entirely my opinion, shaped by my experience and observation throughout my years as a school counselor and even before that, at the time I had difficult experience related to my mental health. In my opinion, the three factors that can negatively influence our mental health are inability to cope with changes, non acceptance of life situation, and negative mindset.

Human life is full of changes. Since the theory of evolution emerges, many people believe that existence is based on one’s ability to survive and to cope with changes. Somehow I agree that people with a better quality of life is those who can adapt with the ever-changing life situation. Inability to do so may make a person feels left behind, angry, or frustrated. A small example of change is loss. I categorize many aspects of life in change, but I think almost all people may have difficulty in coping with loss. The passing of closest family member, the devastation from disaster, and so on. Those events are negative, creating a feeling of uncertainty, insecurity, etc. However, change is not always negative – but even positive changes can also negatively influence mental health. It is evident in cases where people with newly coming wealth, power, and popularity cannot cope with the change. This, again, leads to negative affect and disturbed mental health.

I believe that how we live and how we keep our mental health entirely depends on how we see the world and ourselves. Therefore, the non acceptance of our life situation will definitely negatively impact our mental health. Once we cannot make peace with what happens to us, we will have this thought that the world is unfair, that we deserve more (or less), that someone does this to us and needs to be blamed. Again, these negative affect and thought can negatively influence our mental health.

My second point is actually related to my third point, which is negative mindset. Seeing the world and our own situation as negative can diminish our motivation and spirit. This can also affect how we as human interact with other people. Expecting the worst, assuming negative events will happen, and seeing ourselves as a negative being are all evidence of negative mindset. For example, a person who has the tendency to distrust other people may approach a relationship with the feelings of cautiousness, anxiety, and distrust. He may also think that other people may take advantage of him, etc. Therefore, he builds this wall between him and others, which hinders him to create a meaningful relationship. The feeling of loneliness may come, which then may lead to worsen mental health.

In order to alleviate these factors, I think the best way is to start being aware of ourselves. This includes our emotion, thought, and behavior. By being aware of ourselves, we can also adjust our mindset and reflect on how we want to make meaning of the things around us, of the events that we experience, and of other people’s perspective. It is expected that after we’ve done this, we will have a positive mindset and the acceptance on our life situation. We can then start taking charge of ourselves, being able to help our own self in difficult situations that may threaten our mental health. After that, we can build a healthy and supportive relationship to help us go through life changes.

Life Balance

Sekitar dua tahun yang lalu – Gosh, I’m old! – saya mengikuti sebuah pelatihan. Pada saat itu, semua peserta pelatihan diminta untuk menuliskan karakter diri masing-masing, baik yang bersifat positif maupun negatif. Setelah menuliskan karakter diri, saya baru menyadari bahwa kelebihan saya juga adalah kekurangan saya – to some extent. Kok bisa? Saya lupa seluruh jawaban saya pada saat itu, tapi beberapa karakter yang saya tulis adalah determined (positif), organized (positif), stubborn (negatif), dan over thinker (negatif). Tentunya, semua karakter tersebut tidak muncul dalam satu waktu yang sama. Kalau iya, aneh banget. Haha. In a way, karakter-karakter yang saya sebutkan saling berhubungan. Di satu sisi, saya adalah orang yang keukeuh kalau punya keinginan. Believe me, my parents know it well! Pada situasi yang baik, tentunya jadi karakter yang baik karena saya jadi berusaha untuk mencapai tujuan saya. Di situasi lain, hal tersebut menjadi suatu karakter negatif karena saya menjadi keras kepala, nggak mau dibilangin. Saya juga tipe orang yang organized. Saya suka merencanakan sesuatu, saya berpikir dan mengatur hidup saya. To some negative extent, saya bisa menjadi orang yang terlalu banyak berpikir sehingga keputusan yang saya buat lama, terlalu banyak pertimbangan, dan lain-lain. Saya lalu menyadari bagaimana cara saya meminimalisir kekurangan saya – hidup seimbang. Kalau saya bisa menjaga agar karakter saya tidak ekstrem maka seharusnya saya bisa menjadi manusia yang memiliki karakter lebih baik. Right?

Kejadiannya dua tahun lalu, tapi kenapa sekarang menulisnya? Mungkin karena paparan media sosial yang cukup besar saya terima akhir-akhir ini (ya, ini salah saya sendiri). Banyak sekali berita mengenai berbagai isu dan beberapa diantaranya menarik perhatian saya. Misalnya, mengenai gaya hidup para penerima beasiswa, mengenai orang tua yang memboikot televisi bagi anak-anak mereka, hingga mengenai jumlah jam tidur. Intinya, ada banyak perspektif dan komentar mengenai bagaimana seseorang harus mengatur hidupnya. Do we have the right to judge and to direct other people?

Membaca banyak artikel-artikel tersebut membuat saya melakukan refleksi diri (bukan pijat refleksi, OOT kangen banget pijet…). Mana yang benar? Mana yang harus saya ikuti? Hingga saya sampai pada kesimpulan bahwa kuncinya adalah keseimbangan dan niat. Life is short and death is sure. Sekarang, bagaimana memanfaatkan yang ada di dunia untuk akhirat. Toh, semua yang jadi perbincangan dan pro kontra akan balik-balik lagi ke tujuannya apa. Ya, kan?

Contoh, satu isu yang cukup menarik dan menggelitik adalah beberapa opini mengenai gaya hidup para penerima beasiswa. Sebagai orang yang terpapar langsung terhadap hal tersebut, saya mencoba menghayati apa sih yang mendasari pendapat yang berbeda-beda tersebut. Berdasarkan artikel-artikel yang saya baca, banyak yang mempertanyakan keseriusan para penerima beasiswa dalam belajar dan mempertanyakan aktivitas jalan-jalan mereka. Intinya, para penerima beasiswa seharusnya bisa serius belajar dan membalas budi beasiswa yang tidak sedikit jumlahnya tersebut ke rakyat Indonesia. Setuju!But are we not allowed to spend money?

Saya yakin, insyaAllah para penerima beasiswa pun amanah dan menepati janji mereka pada saat mendaftar beasiswa. Namun, bagi saya keseriusan dalam belajar dan berprestasi tidak 100% relevan dengan jumlah jalan-jalan dan aktivitas yang katanya foya-foya dengan uang rakyat. Apa tidak bisa, seseorang berprestasi baik, berkontribusi besar, dan tetap bisa menikmati hidup? Semua orang berpendapat berbeda, tapi apabila saya melihat dari kacamata keseimbangan dan niat, rasanya kegiatan beraktivitas non-akademis tidak bisa dieliminasi begitu saja semata-mata karena harus berprestasi dan berkontribusi. Kalau seseorang bisa mendapatkan nilai distinction di semua mata kuliah, aktif membantu masyarakat Indonesia dan berorganisasi tapi tetap jalan-jalan saat liburan untuk refreshing, apa itu salah? And again, it comes back to personal opinion. Dan lagi, uang negara adalah hal yang sensitif dan bukan untuk main-main.

Let’s move to another example. Kali ini mungkin lebih bisa dipahami oleh semua orang. Lagi-lagi masalah uang – kali ini uang pribadi. Beberapa minggu lalu, saya sedang mengobrol dengan salah satu teman mengenai keinginan saya untuk membeli sebuah tas. Komentarnya, “Tas X bukannya terjangkau ya, Za untuk orang seumuran kita, apalagi kalau suami istri bekerja?” Lalu kami berdiskusi dan sampai pada kesimpulan bahwa ya, mungkin saya punya uang untuk membeli tas tersebut tanpa harus menabung tapi saya punya hal-hal lain yang ingin saya lakukan sehingga tabungan saya harus direlakan untuk hal-hal lain tersebut. Saya harus membuat prioritas, saya harus mengerti mana yang didahulukan. Saya sendiri pernah mengalami masa-masa tidak mau membeli barang baru – sama sekali. Lalu saya ditegur oleh ibu saya. Ibu saya bilang, jangan membuat diri sendiri menderita kalau memang saya tidak harus menderita dan mampu. Indeed, money is not an easy thing to deal with.

Selain uang, ada juga waktu. Suatu hal yang harus digunakan dengan bermanfaat (at least bagi saya). Kenapa? Karena waktu tidak akan pernah kembali. What we’ve spent were spent, period. Setiap orang tentu memiliki cara berbeda untuk menghabiskan waktu. Ada yang banyak bekerja, ada yang banyak bersosialisasi, ada yang banyak beribadah, ada juga yang banyak tidur. Semua itu adalah pilihan pribadi. Dan pilihan, selalu memiliki konsekuensi. Ya, tinggal dipikirkan saja toh, niatnya apa? Tujuannya apa? Lagi-lagi, bagi saya kuncinya adalah seimbang. Terlalu banya bekerja, tidak baik juga. Terlalu banyak bersosialisasi, (bagi saya, sih) cape juga. So what? Berkacalah pada kebutuhan masing-masing, aturlah berdasarkan standar masing-masing.

Bagi saya, orang yang paling berpengaruh dalam membentuk pendapat saya mengenai keseimbangan dan niat adalah ibu saya. Melanjutkan cerita saya yang tidak mau membeli barang baru, ibu saya bertanya lima hal. Pertama, berapa uang yang saya miliki? Kedua, sudahkah saya membayar zakat dan bersedekah? Ketiga, apakah saya membutuhkan barang tersebut? Keempat, apakah saya mampu membeli barang tersebut? Kelima, apakah saya bisa menyisihkan uang saya untuk menabung? Kalau jawaban dari empat pertanyaan terakhir adalah ya, kenapa tidak saya menggunakan uang saya untuk membeli barang yang saya inginkan? Pertanyaan-pertanyaan tersebut merefleksikan sebuah prinsip:do your responsibility, help people in need, spend based on your needs and capabilities. Tentunya, prinsip tersebut tidak hanya bisa diaplikasikan dalam konteks finansial, tetapi juga dalam berbagai konteks lainnya.

Menulis artikel ini membuat saya banyak berpikir lagi, mengevaluasi diri lagi. Sepertinya, banyak area hidup saya yang masih belum seimbang. Saya belum mengatur waktu saya dengan baik, saya masih cukup boros dan ignorant terhadap spending saya, dan lain-lain. Anyway, realizing is the first step of change. Semoga saya bisa menjadi orang yang lebih seimbang dan diluruskan niatnya oleh Allah.

O children of Adam, take your adornment at every masjid, and eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess. Say, “Who has forbidden the adornment of Allah which He has produced for His servants and the good [lawful] things of provision?” Say, “They are for those who believe during the worldly life [but] exclusively for them on the Day of Resurrection.” Thus do We detail the verses for a people who know. (Quran, Chapter# 7, Verses#31-32)

Feb 12, 2016

Pursue of Happiness

A few months ago I had a discussion with a friend. He asked me what my life purpose is. Wow, I have never really thought about it. The first thing comes to mind for an answer was to be beneficial for myself, others, and my environment. My friend told me that my answer was not adequate because it was a normative answer. Yes, I agree. My answer was what my culture and religion suggest to be the life purpose of human. Anyone in my culture and religion can answer the same thing. What my friend asked me was what my life purpose is, a specific purpose only for me. Well, I gave it a thought and I cannot disagree with my friend. Although I am not an existentialist, I believe that everyone is unique and humans have free will to choose and direct their life. Having a life purpose and free will are the characters of human.

Do people realise that children are given uniform information about life purpose? They are given the same explanation about the preferred life style: getting higher education degree, working in a multinational company or white collar job, owning assets to ensure their economic welfare, and by achieving those stuffs they will live happily ever after. First of all, there is no such a thing like living happily ever after because human will die eventually. More importantly, whose preferred life style is that? Do all people want that kind of life? In a sense, education contributes to the distribution of that way of life; education which according to Orr (1994) focuses only on personal benefit and intellectuality, abandoning feeling and sense of humanity.

Education is a tool for people; not only a certain group of people but all people. Therefore education has the obligation to facilitate people to achieve their life purpose, at least in my opinion. If educators, including those who have the power to make decision, agree with this, education may be understood differently. Education which is now regarded to be what Robinson (2012) called the producer of university professors because it pushes all children into one direction; can be regarded to be the facilitator of people’s different life purpose.

I think, this concept of education as a facilitator for people to achieve their life purpose puts back human in the centre of education. It respects human’s choice and gives a sense of power for people (Freire, 1973). It is the opposite of the reality of education now. Uniformity is spread all over the world as Colin (2011) showed similarity of national education system worldwide. In an extreme understanding, this kind of uniformity can be regarded as indoctrination which violates people’s autonomy (Gingell & Winch, 2008).

In my opinion, education should be able to help people to live their own unique life. It should go beyond material adequacy, it better be providing spiritual and emotional adequacy; by, as mentioned by Fairfield (2009), enabling people to give richer meanings to their lived experience. Education should also be made in a way that allows individual uniqueness to be celebrated and supports people to pursue their life purpose so that they will be content with happiness.

May 28, 2013

Euro 2012!!

This past 3 weeks the world has been mesmerized by a giant event, EURO! Well, I support Germany team but unfortunately they can’t make it to the final round. I am a bit disappointed but that’s life, right? You can’t always win. However, I still support Germany! Yeay! Deutschland uber alles!

Am I gonna talk about Germany team? Or even Euro? Nope! Haha… I am inspired by one of the match that I watched. It was Germany vs Portugal if I am not mistaken. It was one of the first matches in Euro 2012.

So here is my thought

During the second half of that match Germany was still leading. The score was 1-0. I could sense the pressure felt by Portugal team. It was like they need to, they really want to make their score even. Within very limited time left, the team strive, push hard, and put their best effort. Suddenly I felt like everybody was time-conscious. They were super aware of the time; how much time they have left, what they can do in such little time, etc, etc. At the end, Portugal lose.

Seeing that football match made me think about time. Yes, in the part that everyone seemed to be very time-conscious, I thought about human condition. In a football match; we know, every player; knows the duration of the game. The players know how much time left so they can make a good use of their tie in order to achieve their goal, winning. And even so, the players, the supporters, are nervous. They are afraid to lose. They want to win but they don’t know whether they will win or not. What they can do is just showing their best performance.

What about life?

As we all know, we don’t know the duration of our life. We unconsciously know but rarely realize, rarely really aware of that. And what do we do? We don’t know how much time we have left but we don’t even try, we don’t (well, I don’t and often forget) to put my best effort. I believe that all humans want to win. And as in afterlife, because I believe in afterlife, winning means heaven. My goal, most people’s goal is heaven. With unknown time limit, off course we should prepare for the worse.

What if, tomorrow my time ends? Am I going to win? Will I get injury time? Will I achieve my goal? Not sure! Then what am I doing? Why don’t I try hard, show my maximum performance, like those football players as if there is only 1 minute left to win the game?

I guess it is true that life is a game. Work hard as if we only have 1 more minute before the final whistle is blown because we won’t know whether we win or lose.

Jul 01, 2012